WASHINGTON - 5) The Exorcist Stairs
Location: 3600 M Street NW, Washington, DC
Georgetown is located in one of the most beautiful parts of the city. Stunning views of the Potomac, some of the city’s best (and most expensive) restaurants, and one of the most respected medical schools in the country make the neighborhood extraordinarily popular. For all of the bright things the city is known for, it is also known as the filming location for one of the darkest scenes in cinema history. Likely the most well-known entry on this list, the stairs were coated in half-inch thick rubber in order to film the famous death scene of Father Karras from the 1973 horror film. While filming, Georgetown University students charged people $5 ($27 in 2016 with inflation) to watch the stunt from dormitory rooftops. In 2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser recognized the stairs as a DC historical landmark.
4) The Spanish Steps
Location: 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC
Yet another set of stairs makes the list! The Spanish Steps were built in 1717 and are one of the most famous sets of stairs in the world, located in Rome, Italy. However, you do not need to travel to Rome to have the experience. Nestled between S Street NW and Decatur Place, NW along 22nd street is a quiet oasis from the typically busy Dupont Circle nearby. Though not nearly to the same scale and grander of those across the Atlantic, DC’s version of the Spanish Steps are still beautiful in their own right. The stairs have a certain beauty to them unlike any other set of stairs in the city, and local residents have been enjoying their beauty since the stairs were built in 1911.
3) The Glass Forest
Location: 5102 Sherier Pl NW, Washington, DC
One of the lesser known items on this list for a reason, the Glass Forest can be difficult to find unless you know exactly what you are looking for. Located on the ground of the Palisades Recreation Center, the Glass Forecast is a short hike into the forest from the children’s playground on the facility grounds. There, nestled among the trees are various sculptures made of grass, trees, and of course glass. Mirrors and stained glass adorn several trees, and do to some sharp edges it is not recommended that children go without parental supervision. Visitors to the forest talk about how eerie and truly out of place the Glass Forest is. Many describe it as being straight out of a scene from the 1999 hit movie The Blair Witch Project or HBO’s 2014 hit series True Detective due its creepy feel.
2) The Technicolor Church
Location: 700 Delaware Ave SW, Washington, DC
Alex Brewer is one of the most well-known contemporary artists at active today. Better known by his artist name, HENSE, and is known for his large, colorful abstract paintings and monumental wall creations. Originally from Atlanta, Alex has painted on buildings and structures all over the world, and in 2012 he came to Washington, DC to paint his next masterpiece. The location selected was formally Friendship Baptist Church in Ward 6, which had been sitting abandoned for a number of years. In a matter of weeks, Alex transformed what was a rundown structure of fading white into a monument of color. The church now stands out vividly as an explosion of color in a neighborhood of brick and stone. While seemingly out of place, local officials are hoping the colorful landmark will kick start local renovations and lead to the neighbor being a hub for local artists.
1) Darth Vader Grotesque
Location: Washington National Cathedral. 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC
What do Star Wars and The National Cathedral have in common? Darth Vader, believe it or not! Undoubtedly one of the most recognizable structures in Washington, DC the National Cathedral is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world and one of the tallest structures in the city. It is an extremely popular tourist attraction, with over half a million visitors a year. Being modeled after the fourteenth century English Gothic style of design, the church is adorned with numerous carvings and statues on the exterior…including one of the most famous movie villains of all time. Here is the story. In the 1980s when work on the exterior of the cathedral was ongoing, a contest was held in National Geographic World Magazine to design one of the grotesques for the structure. A child named Christopher Rader’s drawing of Darth Vader was selected as the winner and the rest is history! While commonly referred to as a gargoyle, since the carving deflects water instead of draining it, it is technically a grotesque. If you plan to spot Darth Vader on your next trip to the cathedral, be sure to bring a pair of binoculars or a camera with a good zoom as the grotesque is too high up to be made out with the human eye. It can be found near the top of the northwest tower between two arches. May the force be with you!